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August 13, 2010

Thousands of Sierra Clubbers Demand U.S. Bank to Stop Coal Abroad

7,769 Sierra Club members told the Export-Import Bank that instead of financing dirty power projects abroad, it should be positioning U.S. companies to lead in a competitive clean technology market that can create thousands more jobs in the US. These comments were directed at the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Kusile coal-fired power plant proposed by the South African Utility.

By Justin Guay

At nearly 5,000 megawatts of output, the Kusile plant would be one of the largest dirty-coal plants in the world, and would be one of the single largest point sources of climate disrupting pollution on Earth. The Kusile project would annually emit more than 150 percent of the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Ex-Im Bank in 2009.

While failing to adhere to a Congressional mandate to significantly increase renewable energy financing, the Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors also recently voted to support the Sasan coal-fired power project in India, one of nine “Ultra Mega Power Plants” being pursued by the Indian government. Sasan, slated to produce 3,960 MW, is controlled by Sasan Power Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, owned by Anil Ambani one of the world’s richest men. Local communities in India are actively protesting the Sasan project, as it will displace 6,000 people, and emit between 26-27 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

If the Ex-Im Bank proceeds with funding the Kusile and Sasan projects, U.S. taxpayer dollars will be tripling the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Export-Import Bank in 2009. According to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, more than 95% of Ex-Im’s energy portfolio is based on fossil fuels, and in 2009 Ex-Im Bank financing for renewable energy was less than 0.5% of the agency’s total financing.

While funding the project with U.S. tax dollars presents a strategic misstep, it also represents significant health and environmental impacts in South Africa. Pollutants proven to cause and contribute to serious cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses such as heart disease and asthma, as well as neurological and developmental disorders, will directly impact the surrounding communities.

The Ex-Im Bank Board is expected to take up a due diligence vote on Kusile in early September. The decision to whether or not to finance these projects will send a direct signal to fossil fuel industries and other lenders about the future of clean energy technology and the role of fossil fuels in development. With controversy brewing, and pressure building, it’s time for Ex-Im Bank to do the right thing.

To find out more about Kusile go here.

To find out more about Sasan go here.

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